OK, eventually you have to put your money where your mouth is. So who, of the four declared contestants – Nanaia Mahuta, Grant Robertson, Andrew Little and David Parker – should, in my opinion, win the Labour leadership contest? And let’s be clear: the only criterion for the job is that that person should have at least a snowball’s chance of beating John Key in. Nanaia Mahuta has already conceded that she’s unlikely to win the race and she is to be admired for her honesty. Of the remaining three I’m going to discount Andrew Little first. I simply don’t believe that the country is ready for a grim-faced former union leader to be Prime Minister or to be this country’s envoy overseas. Much has been made of Grant Robertson’s sexuality as an impediment to his electoral chances.
In a recent television vox pop an elderly man expressed horror less at the fact that Robertson was gay, but that he was “married to a man”. I found that interesting and it may in fact be the case that, if Robertson were single, there would be less objection to the idea of his becoming Prime Minister. There have been plenty of gay Cabinet Ministers on both sides of the house, but most, I’m reasonably certain, were unmarried or as good as. It’s as if it were OK to be a gay bachelor but not OK to be identified as a man married to – and sleeping with – another man. Sodomy is the elephant in the room in this matter. In a recent programme on Prime TV Bill Ralston and I were asked whether we thought Robertson’s sexuality would affect his chances of winning the Labour leadership and, if he did, his subsequent chances of leading Labour to victory in.
We both thought that it would. But my own view was that the effect would not be great. That is still my view and the effect may be lessened by his choice of Jacinda Ardern as a running-mate which is nothing less than a master-stroke. My objection to Roberson has nothing to do with his sexuality. I simply don’t like the man I see on television – loud, overconfident, bullying, dismissive of other viewpoints. These are some of the qualities that have made him such an effective debater in Parliament, but I doubt they will serve him as well in broadcast election debates against Key. David Parker is an entirely different cup of tea – boyish, quietly spoken, charming, erudite, a master in his field of economics, a brilliant dialectician and a man with his eyes firmly fixed on the glittering prize.
He will take exception if you compare him to Harry Potter, but Potter is a modern folk hero and that can’t be all bad. Most of all, Parker is likeable and likeability is a major plus in the era of presidential style elections and televised debates. If he has a fault it is, as my mother would have put it, being backward in coming forward. If he is to win against Little and Robertson he cannot afford to be modest of self-effacing. He must learn to promote himself better. And could he defeat John Key? In intellect and debating skill without a doubt; and match him at least in Key’s strongest suit – coming across as someone you’d be happy to have a beer with… or a cup of tea at least. So my money’s on Parker. For one thing, I’m comfortable with the idea of him representing us on the world stage. Not so much his opponents. I’m not comfortable with that at all.